Many former Drayang employees, particularly those who are illiterate, are unaware of the training programs that have been offered to them
Thirty-five years old Ugyen Norbu, who is a father of two children, arrived in Thimphu after dropping out of Class V because his parents couldn’t afford to keep him in school.
He was happy, though, after securing a job as a dancer in one of the Drayangs in Thimphu.
“Life was sustainable, and I could provide for my family by earning at least Nu 10,000 Nu 15,000 per month,” he says, adding that it has been, however, difficult to survive since the Covid-19 pandemic started in March 2020.
Ugyen Dorji is one of hundreds of Drayang employees who have been laid off and are striving to make ends meet ever since a temporary closure on Drayangs was put in place after the detection of the first Covid-19 case in Bhutan in March 2020.
Further, the final nail in the coffin of the Drayang business was when the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) issued an executive order to permanently shut down all the Drayangs in the country from January 2022. The government released a notification stating the compensation amount for the Drayang owners as well as various training programs for the laid-off employees.
While the owners of the Drayangs have been compensated in accordance with the announcement, many former employees, particularly those who are illiterate, are unaware of the training programs that have been offered to them.
Another difficulty, according to Ugyen Norbu, is that the government’s notices and employment training are mostly for people with educational backgrounds or those who have completed Class X or XII.
“What about us? We lack the necessary qualifications for specific occupations or training. We have been surviving on His Majesty’s Kidu program till now, but for how long?” he asked.
“We are feeling the gap today more than ever. There is nothing in our hands or on which we can rely on,” he added.
Ugyen Dorj was advised to return to his village, where he could work and support his family, but he said, “It is easier said than done.” “I don’t have land or a house in my village to provide for my family.”
However, the focal person of the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources (MoLHR) told Business Bhutan that each and every former Drayang employee has job opportunities and training available for them.
“It’s merely that we’ve divided training programs into categories based on the qualifications.”
According to the official, the confusion may have erupted while they were calling former Drayang employees to obtain information on their qualifications. The ministry is collecting data in order to place them in various training programs according to their qualification and they must have assumed that the ministry is not going to provide opportunities to them.
The president of Drayang Association of Bhutan, Kelzang Phuntsho said, “There are only a few people who have completed Class 12 or 10, but many are illiterate and many have been complaining about the government’s decision to provide them with different sets of trainings, claiming that they were all treated equally in Drayansg and want the same opportunities even now. But given the nature of the work and training, it looks not possible.”
Meanwhile, many laid-off Drayang employees have enrolled in the DeSuung program and are performing duties as DeSuup, while some have taken up odd jobs.
A few are employed as Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD)’s instructors, according to the president.
Tshering Pelden from Thimphu